Fluidity is not just an apt description for the way that I love, or the way that I experience sexual/romantic attractions. It is an apt description for the way that I move and travel and experience my whole life.
I bring the gift of disruptive grace into spaces that I inhabit. Admittedly, sometimes when I’m not at my healthiest I’m more disruptive than graceful, but when I’m at peak functioning I bring disruption and grace and hem them together.
How am I fluid? Let me count a few ways.
I work for the military. I am proud to work for the military. I am not a pacifist, but for all intents and purposes I see war as a last resort. In military spaces that I inhabit, I am the voice bringing a multitude of other diplomatic and political solutions into planning rooms. I work for the military. I despise war. I’ve seen up and close and personal the cost our service members pay. I have nothing but incredible honor and respect for our service members. I transgress boundaries.
Religiously, I transgress boundaries. When I preach, I choose to preach all over the place. I preach in evangelical churches. I preach in progressive christian churches. I preach in ecumenical spaces. I preach in places where they may not be familiar with women in the pulpit. I preach in places where as a progressive bisexual female clergy justice advocate, I am by far the most boring and least controversial thing happening in that church. After I came out as bisexual, I decided that I didn’t want to stop preaching and teaching in all kinds of places. But it took a little while for me to figure out how to do that well, and it’s still a dance. It’s still a work in progress for me, but I’m committed to this work. I’m committed to setting boundaries to protect myself from abuse or harm. I’m committed to protecting my vulnerability. I’m committed to transparency. I’m committed to the task of nurturing complex relationships.
When I am not preaching, and if I’m attending a service for myself, I might opt to go sit with the Quakers. As an extrovert who talks, talks, talks, talks, AND talks—silence is good for me. Silence surrounded by other people, and silence where I’m held in sacred community is even better for me. I draw energy from people. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking or if we are being quiet together as we discern the will and spirit of God. Something sacred happens when I’m in the presence of people. Like putting gas in an engine, I gain the ability to keep on going.
My partner is Unitarian, and so I also might find myself gravitating to Unitarian churches to worship with her. I have really grown to appreciate that Unitarian churches are not “Pastor centered” churches. They are pastor “facilitated” churches. Ultimately I don’t think “Pastor dependent” churches are healthy or good for people, even as I take great joy in being a pastor. I think the right role of the pastor is to be a cheerleader who empowers people and provides resources to them in their own quest for meaning and truth. Perhaps also the pastor is someone who sets an example by living a life punctuated by exploration of these spiritual questions and deeper meaning.
The 4th Principle of Unitarianism encourages the cultivation and the discipline of personal responsibility in your own spiritual journey. The official principal is “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) website reflects on this 4th principal by saying, “This privilege calls us not to be isolated and self-centered, believing that our single perspective trumps all others, but rather to be humble, to be open to the great mysteries of truth and meaning that life offers. And those mysteries may speak to us through our own intuition and experience—but also through tradition, community, conflict, nature, and relationships.”
And when I hear people (usually my fellow Christian friends) critique the UUA, their main arguments are things like this:
-They blend multi-religions, I think they’re just confused
-I wish they would just pick a side
Hmmm, this all sounds familiar to me.
But where have I heard all this before? Let me see? hmmm….Think! Think! Think!
Anyway, I’m not confused. I am unabashedly a Christian minister. And unabashedly a Christian who enjoys holding space with diverse people. The Jesus stories sit at the heart of my life and faith, and I’ve never had this central piece of me erased or questioned in any Unitarian space. However, I have been invited to expand the borders and boundaries of my imagination, and to contemplate the holy and the sacred through new traditions, new paths, and new ideas. I have been invited to consider what it might mean to become the “sum of my parts” and to see the holy in new places and new faces rather than to “pick only one visible part” so that I can “play the right part.” Unitarians welcome and value spiritual fluidity. Contrary to oppressing or suppressing it, they actually encourage it. They see it as a gift. A gift that I bring back and give to communities that I engage in my work as a Presbyterian minister.
Politically, I am fluid. Working for the military/govt, I’ve really gained an appreciation for the nuance and complexity of our Government system. I’ve really gained an appreciation for the fact that nothing important gets done without bipartisan support. And the bitter rancor and rhetoric of our current political moment, this sharp divide, these echo chambers are not good for us. They are not good for our politics. They are not good for our churches. They are not good for our friendships. They are not good for our families. They are not good for our humanity. They are not good for us. I get sucked into the cesspool of snark and cynicism that is social media on a regular basis. So I suppose this is a bit of a confession on my part too. A duality. A fluidity that I’m trying navigate. I’m stuck in my own tension between who I often am on social media and who I want to become.
But I have the capacity in me to be cautious and careful with my words to exercise more care with words than 140 character sound bytes encourage. I have it in me to point people toward a more beautiful vision for our world. I have it in me to bring people together around a common table: republicans, democrats, Bernie Bros, libertarians, socialists, communists—the whole odd lot of us and to organize around our most common and vexing problems today. To lift up and recognize the importance of wisdom arriving to us from different perspectives, and streams of thought. I have it in me to stop saying things like “my truth is superior to your truth.” I have it in me to consider the fact that our world is a lovelier place when we aspire to find the most beautiful, the most noble, the most wise elements of plural political truths.
I wonder how our health care debates would look if common citizens said to our political class, “we refuse to play this asinine zero-sum game of republicans vs democrats, winner take all, vilify your neighbor etc”…and if we called our public servants to accounting and forced them to actually serve the public instead of dividing and conquering us. I wonder what would happen if we demanded that they quit writing pithy 140 character tweets, and obsessing over their optics, and if we forced them to start disseminating accurate healthcare information to the public about:
-The Canadian health care system
-The UK health care system
-The Australian health care system
Countries with across the board single payer healthcare vs countries with a complex mix of single payer and private pay.
Imagine us as an informed citzenry with library cards and free time spent pursuing all of this information, rolling up our sleeves, and doing the work of becoming informed instead of reading a 3page Op-ed and declaring ourselves experts on a topic. And then imagine us talking to our neighbors about it. Our republican neighbors. Our democrat neighbors. Our libertarian neighbors. Imagine if we were as committed to the civic duty of governing together and rallying around a common cause to solve a complex problem as all of us were to quoting pundits like Bill Maher or Ann Coulter.
This is the world I want to live in, and sometimes I really do. Sometimes I recognize my own fluidity as enough of a gift that it permits me to “quit picking sides” and to transgress all of these borders without apology. We’re only limited by our own self imposed boundaries. What if upon examination, we realized that our boundaries were hindering our growth instead of contributing to it in healthy ways? What if we traded crass across the bough insults for common commitment to exploring solutions to complex problems.
My sexual orientation is not fluid, I am.
Maybe some of you are fluid too. Maybe you have a desire to live in this fluid world too. Maybe some of you are more complex than a single category, community, or label would allow. If so, I honor your complexity. I give you permission to flex your muscles and grow into your selves in all your richness and textures and fullness. Come on in. The water is fine.